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Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman

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Concerned logo

The Concerned logo.

Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman, or simply Concerned, is a webcomic created by Christopher C. Livingston[1] that parodies Half-Life 2. The tool that was primarily used to create Concerned was Garry's Mod,[1] a sandbox modification which allows the player to do a number of physics-related experiments. The first issue was released on May 1, 2005.[2] After a year, the comic ended on November 6, 2006 with a total of 205 issues.[3] The website was shut down for unknown reasons but has since been put back up.

An unofficial sequel, Concerned 2: A Concerned Rip-off, was created by series fan Norman N. Black, and was featured at aconcernedrip-off.webs.com. However, Concerned 2 ended on an undisclosed hiatus at issue 61, released on November 28th, 2010.

SynopsisEdit

IntroductionEdit

Frohman Rebel

Gordon Frohman in Rebel attire.

In Half-Life 2, the player takes on the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman. Throughout the game, following the story of a dark, dystopian future in which mankind has been enslaved by the Combine, a mysterious alien enemy. Concerned, however, follows the same general path through the story established by Half-Life 2, but instead follows the adventures of Gordon Frohman, a hapless, lethally clumsy oaf who arrives in City 17 a few weeks before Freeman. Frohman is incredibly naive and, unlike the other citizens, appears to enjoy living under the rule of the totalitarian administrator, Dr. Wallace Breen, and the Combine. He holds an insane reverence for the latter, even going to the point of having a plush doll of an Overwatch Soldier. In the comic, Gordon Frohman is shown to have caused many of the events in Half-Life 2, either directly or indirectly. (For example, the letter written by a 'concerned citizen' regarding the reproductive Suppression Field, is shown in the comic to have been written by Gordon Frohman, hence the comic's title.)[4]

PlotEdit

Frohman arrives excitedly arriving in City 17, eventually taking a job at the Combine's headquarters, the Citadel, under a Combine Elite named Mr. Henderson. As most of his human colleagues become Combine soldiers, he realizes that Henderson has no immediate intention to do the same for him, citing his incompetence. Demanding to become one with the Combine, Frohman willingly sets off to Nova Prospekt for invasive surgery to join the Overwatch. Meanwhile, he selects Ravenholm as a residence where he can commute to and from City 17, but lacks proper transport with which to get there. After a failed attempt to reach Ravenholm using Dr. Kleiner's teleporter leaves him stuck in a Counter-Strike: Source server for a week, Frohman, in frustration, seeks Ravenholm by foot instead. Traveling through City 17's canals, Frohman finally arrives, badly injured and dazed, at Black Mesa East, the headquarters of the human Resistance, where he is welcomed as a helper. His stay there is cut short because he causes trouble in the base, and also irritatingly overuses the gravity gun. He is fooled into leaving the base, and finally heads toward and reaches Ravenholm.

On Frohman's arrival, Ravenholm is depicted as a peaceful, bright and cheerful place devoid of any Combine elements, but "terrorized" by Father Grigori. After adjusting, Frohman becomes accustomed to the town, but unintentionally discloses the town's location to Dr. Breen, who immediately orders his forces to bomb with Headcrab Shells ,killing many and turning many more into zombies. Frohman himself is attacked by a headcrab and turns into a zombie too, yet retains his free will, but after awhile his headcrab dies of malnutrition, which Grigori attributes to Frohman's lack of intelligence. With Father Grigori's help, Frohman escapes Ravenholm, now the zombie-infested nightmare seen when Freeman visits it in the game, and presses on to Nova Prospekt. After surviving several more hazards, Frohman reaches the Coast and obtains a rusty bicycle from another resistance base. En route, he stumbles across St. Olga, the setting of Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, and another Counter-Strike server. After passing the final resistance base on the coast and an Antlion-infested beach, Frohman encounters an Antlion Guard, which is killed by a Vortigaunt from a nearby camp. This allows Frohman to retrieve bugbait, with which he can control Antlions.

Frohman, accompanied by several bugbait-controlled Antlions, eventually reaches Nova Prospekt, only to be turned away as he does not have an appointment. He gives up and returns to City 17 in the following strip, content of the city's provisions, as Gordon Freeman finally arrives in the city, linking the comic's time frame with the start of Half-Life 2. Frohman is drafted into the resistance by Barney Calhoun after failing to disrupt their operations, and unintentionally signals the start of the resistance's uprising by accidentally killing a Metrocop using one of his Antlions. During the fighting, he accompanies Freeman himself and mingles with resistance members, aids the Combine in the capture of Alyx Vance, and reunites with Norman Frohman, his long-lost assassin twin brother, only to promptly witness Norman's death at the hands (or foot as the case may be) of a Strider.

Following this, Frohman returns to the Citadel, unwillingly aiding Freeman in his journey up the Citadel and influencing the plot of the game. After Freeman is captured, brought to Dr. Breen, freed and pursuing Dr. Breen to the Dark Fusion Reactor, Frohman attempts to kill Freeman, donning his old rebel clothing and arming himself with a crossbow. He spends too long trying to come up with a one-liner, and Dr. Breen's teleporter explodes. Frohman is flung off the Citadel peak by the explosion. Dr. Breen also survives, having fallen from the Citadel onto a pile of dead Combine soldiers. However, Frohman falls right onto Breen—killing the latter—but is himself only seriously injured. Baffled by his ability to survive, Frohman realizes through a flashback that he has been under "Buddha Mode", a cheat code which prevents his health points from dropping below one throughout the comic's duration. Frohman inadvertently turns the cheat off, and even spoils an opportunity to be rescued by a group of purple Vortigaunts, as both Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance are at the start of Episode One. In the end, Frohman dies unceremoniously, while survivors of the City 17 uprising head to the train station for Episode Two after confirming Frohman's death.

ThemeEdit

Livingston stated that the comic was a good way of pointing out several shortcomings of video games, and first-person shooters in particular, exemplifying the presence of various objects throughout the levels of games, intended to aid the player, but which would have little chance of being found in the real world in a similar matter.

 
"There's a lot of elements about video games to poke fun of, especially in first-person shooters, which all have a lot of things in common, such as health kits, ammo, and barrels filled with explosive material strewn about levels for no practical, real-world reason. It just seemed like a good setting to make jokes."
―Christopher C. Livingston[5]
 

Much of the comic's dark humor is derived from its contrasts with Half-Life 2: in a depressing, dark vision of a conquered humanity's future, Gordon Freeman becomes a hero and savior; the similarly-named Gordon Frohman, on the other hand, is just an average person, improbably cheerful to the point of stupidity, and somewhat naïve as to what is actually going on around him; for instance, Frohman fails to realize that his return-addressed letters to Doctor Breen reveal his location, and so result in that location being invaded, bombed or otherwise compromised.

The comic contains many references to events and objects in the game. In one comic, Frohman makes a clerical error that causes the Combine to order far too many explosive barrels, thus suggesting an explanation for the barrels' ubiquity throughout City 17 and beyond. In another, he writes a letter to Dr. Breen asking why using his flashlight reduces his ability to run, a reference to Half-Life 2's flashlight and sprint functions using the same power source. In a further strip, his presence in the town of Ravenholm ends with it becoming the headcrab-infested ghost town seen in Half-Life 2 after he wrote to Breen expressing his happiness with being there, giving away Ravenholm's location. Indeed, Frohman seems to (intentionally or accidentally) cause many of the disastrous circumstances that Gordon Freeman runs across, as he accidentally gives Breen the idea of headcrab shells while on a radio, and sets up all of the traps in Ravenholm himself in an attempt to catch Father Grigori.

Along with that, it is revealed that, at the Black Mesa Research Facility, he causes the resonance cascade that allows for alien forces to invade in Half-Life by accidentally delivering a wedge of cheese to the test chamber where the cascade flashpoints, giving the explanation that the borderworld is apparently "very lactose intolerant". During the incident he helped a Black Ops and an HECU grunt get together and had a pet Gargantua named Herschel; while the other Resistance members didn't believe him, he did have a photo of himself and the others. Half-Life: Decay, however, indicates that Dr. Gina Cross is responsible for this task. Livingston admitted he did not play Decay, thus having not been aware of its storyline. He also stated that the comic takes place in the PC version of the Half-Life 2 continuity, and since Half-Life: Decay was never published for the PC, it does not affect the comic. However, another possible continuity error is that Dr. Cross is also seen in the PC expansion Half-Life: Blue Shift delivering the sample via a video feed in the surveillance room, but no mention was ever made of this at the time.

ReceptionEdit

The comic received positive reception from both the public and editors of various gaming magazines. Joystiq claimed the comic "stands out from most other gamics [comics consisting of game screenshots] by virtue of the quality of its writing and presentation". Other online magazines such as GGL.com said that "Concerned is one of the funnier online gaming comics, and perhaps the best single-game parody in the bunch", and The Irish Gamers described Concerned as a "hit webcomic".

Editors of various gaming magazines have also given positive reviews to Livingston's webcomic. Computer Gaming World described the comic as being "funny", PC Zone also said of Concerned as being a "mildly amusing HL2 comic". The comic had also caught the attention of reviewers outside the United States and the United Kingdom, the Romanian Level magazine saying the comic is "a recommendation to every fan of the game and anyone looking for a good daily laugh".

The comic's popularity, as well as the fact that Livingston stated he does not intend to continue the comic through Half-Life 2: Episode One,[6] led to the appearance of an 'unofficial' sequel to Concerned, entitled Concerned 2: A Concerned Rip-Off - The Continuing Adventures of Gordon Frohman, created by Norman N. Black, although it is currently on an undisclosed hiatus since November 28, 2010 on issue 61.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Concerned credits
  2. Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman Issue #000
  3. Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman Issue #205
  4. Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman Issue #013
  5. Strip Club: 'Concerned...' on GGL.com
  6. Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman. Notes on Issue #183. "...Ep. 1 doesn't really lend itself to the type of comic I'd want to do."

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